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With a new administration taking office on January 20th and the start of the second decade of the 21st century next month, the time is right for food policy analysts and advocates to take a step back to ask what we hope to accomplish in the coming years. To spark this discussion, on December 10, 2020, the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute held a public forum on the opportunities for healthier and more equitable federal food policy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising food insecurity, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the continuing threats from climate change.

The forum, the first of two on opportunities for new federal food policy, sought to begin conversation among food, farm and social justice activists on how to (re)shape a new federal food agenda during the coming administration and beyond. The three panelists were Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III, Senior Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland, and Founder of the Black Church Food Security Network; Josh Kellermann, Director of Public Policy, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU); and James Parrott, Director, Economic and Fiscal Policies, Center for New York City Affairs, The New School. Institute Director Nick Freudenberg moderated the session. Each made several policy recommendations.

To help focus the nation’s federal food policy goals, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute staff chose to highlight 10 of these recommendations from our panel. Interested readers can watch the recording of the full event here and consult the related bibliography and resources here.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Use the national discussions and advocacy for the Farm Bill of 2023 to create opportunities for Black farmers and landowners to receive federal funds to grow their farms and invest in infrastructure (Brown).
  2. Use federal farm, economic development, and food policy to strengthen asset-based community development. Since the Black Church community is the largest landowner in Black America, its assets are a prime target for development (Brown).
  3. Establish an emergency Occupational Safety and Health Administration temporary standard on infectious diseases in the workplace, to ensure that food workers are protected during the pandemic and to rectify flaws in current regulations (Kellerman).
  4. Pass the PRO Act (H.R.2474) which protects the right to organize. Where there’s workplace democracy, workers are safer and healthier on the job (Kellerman).
  5. Pass a strong COVID-19 stimulus bill that puts money in the pockets of low wage workers, especially essential and frontline workers, to get what they need to support their own and their families’ health, housing stability and financial security (Parrott).
  6. Develop coordinated economic, workforce, tax and social policies that rebuild the job base that low-income workers depended on. This should include federal support for public service job creation programs and wage subsidy programs (Parrott).
  7. Create a national approach to regulating the status of gig and other low paid independent contract workers. Allowing large national corporations to continue to classify their drivers and workers as independent contractors undermines the economic security of these workers, their families, and their communities (Parrott).
  8. Provide significant federal fiscal relief for state and local governments. Most government services in the US are delivered at the local level and funded mainly through state and city budgets. Without federal fiscal relief, state and local government will make damaging cuts that will worsen unemployment, displace jobs, and undermine essential food, housing, and health care services. These cuts will further delay economic recovery from the pandemic (Parrott).
  9. Explain the specific connections between food justice, racial justice, climate justice and economic justice and use these links to propose policy agendas that reduce multiple forms of injustice (Freudenberg).
  10. Develop an agenda that links incremental and transformative changes in our food system and that sends the message that together we can work towards another world that offers healthier, more equitable and sustainable future for the United States and the world (Freudenberg).